Contributed by: Martin Rehm (UNU-MERIT / MGSoG / FHS)
In the process of conducting research, you will come across an endless amount of articles that you want and/or need to read, collect a vast amount of data, and (of course) produce tons of documents that, in one way or the other, will eventually contribute to your PhD thesis. Moreover, as time goes by, you will get increasingly attached to these files and resources. As a result, you will increasingly create “backup-versions”, in order to ensure that nothing gets lost. Traditionally, this has been done by either sending yourself emails (difficult to stay on top of everything), or by simply using the facilities and services that are provided to you by the university (often constrained by security constraints).
Wouldn’t it be easier to store everything at a central space that can be easily reached via the internet, works across computers and platforms (e.g. Windows, iOS), is compatible with mobile devices (e.g. smartphones, tablets), and allows you to invite colleagues (also from outside the UM) to access your resources and files (and maybe even collaborate with you)?
Well, this is where cloud storage comes into play, as it covers all of the above mentioned aspects (and sometimes even more). The following short video (although based on the services of Dropbox) nicely captures the essence of the topic.
Personally, I use all of the tools / services indicated below and I can safely say that organizing my research, as well as my project activities, has really become easier. In the following, I will briefly summarize the main advantages and disadvantages of these three tools / services (as perceived by me), and provide some links, where you can find additional information.
Dropbox (2GB of free storage)
– You can download an application to your computer / mobile device, so that you do not always have to use your internet browser.
– Any changes to selected documents and/or folders are automatically synchronized “with the cloud”
– You can restore “older versions” of documents
– There have been some issues with documents “automatically reverting to older versions”
– When you have a lot of files (difficult to pin-point the exact amount), Dropbox tends to encounter difficulties in synchronizing files.
– Synchronizing folders across platforms / computers is not optimally solved
SugarSync (5GB free storage)
– Same as Dropbox PLUS
– You can upload documents via email
– The “Magic Briefcase” allows you to instantly sync documents / folders across all connected computers and devices.
– Some users encounter difficulties when uploading documents
– Sometimes there are (un)scheduled downtimes
– uploading larg(er) files can be slow
Box (5GB free storage)
– You can create and work on files within your browser (works with GoogleDocs)
– When collaborating on documents, you can add comments / feedback and receive automatic updates when something has changed
– You can also save bookmarks
– No automatic synchronization
– Navigation could have been easier
If you are interested in more information and available services / tools that deal with cloud storage, you might also be interested in the following links & resources:
– Cloud Storage (Wikipedia)
– Sharing files across computers (by the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies)
– Microsoft SkyDrive
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